Sunday, September 18, 2016: Week 3 in Bal Ashram, Rajasthan, India
Last week I explained the children more about what a psychologist can and can not do. I explained about PTSD* and EMDR * with the help of the childrens book ‘Tim and the EMDR miracle’. The kids seem to understand that unpleasant events can have major consequences. I also explained that everyone gets an interview. The children ask questions, such as what happens if they give a wrong answer. When I explain that there is no wrong answer, they look relieved and everyone wants to participate.
After the psycho education I started conducting psychological interviews to map the psychological symptoms of the children. I hear several shocking stories. In the Netherlands, I hear a lot of bad stories at work, but now it hits me more somehow. The children, some of them just 11 years, and they tell their story as if they had a whole life behind them already. Very touching. I put my arm around them or give them a pat on their head. Something I would not easily do in the Netherlands. In India there is generally much more physical contact in comparison with the Netherlands. Besides dealing with children who have missed a lot of affection in the past. I’m trying to find a balance. On the one hand, I work here as a professional and on the other hand, they call me didi (sister) and I live with them. As I said, it’s finding a balance.
There are about 56 children between 8 and 18 years in Bal Ashram at this point. All children will get an interview in the coming weeks. If necessary, they will be diagnosed and treatment may be indicated. Fortunately, I don’t have to do it all alone. There is a team in the Netherlands standing by with whom I can brainstorm; Arnold van Emmerik (Researcher, University of Amsterdam) Jack Dekker (Head of Research Department, Arkin) and Lotte Hendriks (PhD and psychologist P.O.) Propersona. When I’m working in the Netherlands, I also participate in all kinds of peer groups to work as effectively as possible. It is therefore good that I also have this support here in India.
No WIFI: Help!
Bairat is a small town 50 km from the capital city of Rajasthan (Jaipur). Bal Ashram is 5 km away from Bairat. Bal Ashram and the office of the chief are the only two places in this area where there is a WiFi connection. Well is..? Sometimes, just for a moment. The last 5 days I had no internet connection. In an international project such as ours, the Internet is quite important because part of the work is done in India and partly in the Netherlands. Kalpesh-ji give me a tip about working through a personal hotspot. Through the prepaid card on my phone, I can then work on the tablet; a good interim solution. Next week the wifi issue will be addressed in the Ashram. Keeping my fingers crossed!
Prepaid SIM card with Internet: indispensable
From Amsterdam to Gau-wali
As I described earlier, Bal Ashram lies at a 5 km disctance from a small town. Within walking distance is a small dining café and a tiny stall of an elderly gentleman who sells candy. About 4 to 5 times a week I go and eat there. In Amsterdam I feel as free as a bird. Everything is within reach. Here, at the beginning I suddenly felt very dependent. If I need something, I need to go to Bairat by motorbike or jeep so I have to ask others if they can take me.
Manohar-ji brings me to the ‘city’. I’m sitting on the back seat with both of my legs on the leftside. I start to gigle, I never sat on a motorbike like this before but so often seen it in Bollywood films. Arriving in Bairat, we drive at a relatively high speed through the narrow streets. Manohar-ji honks a lot. Honking in India means “Watch out, here I come” or “I’m going to pass through.” Even the cows that are also in the narrow streets, are responding to the honking and move a side a bit. This is the beauty of a collective society. Manohar-ji does not understand my gigles. For him it’s a common place, he grew up in this environment. I remember a Bollywood movie with exactly this scene, only the woman is waving a dupatta (scarf) in the air. I explain to Mahohar-ji about my laughing: “I come from a big city, but now I’m officially a gau-wali (a villager).” Manohar-ji laughs and nods yes.
Save by Seva Foundation
* PTSD: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
* EMDR: Eye Movement desensititation reprosessing, a form of trauma treatment